Magazine Société

Oiling the African wheels

Publié le 04 mai 2010 par Véronique Anger-De Friberg @angerdefriberg

The new African geo-strategy has encouraged big international industrialists, attracted by new and profitable markets, to strengthen their capitalist policies.
The global policy of sharing out raw materials' reserves, and especially in Africa, involves using all possible means to exploit them profitably. This policy has introduced a new stage in the biggest African countries' economy.
Foreign investors are welcomed with open arms by the Africans as the guarantors of a prosperous economy. But Africa may have bad surprises in store: chronic political instability, armed conflicts, civil or transnational wars, unorganized public services, various taxes, logistic and security problems, customs obstacles, ...
To get a strategic position in Africa, big foreign groups must use large-scale logistic means.
Essential on the spot, local experts and the best specialists in Africa are requested to facilitate foreign companies' setting up and "oil the African wheels...", as said Robert Montoya, famous for being among the main actors of the African logistics and security.
Avoid trouble and save precious time
His experience in logistics and security at the S.A.S. group, his connections in several states with the highest levels of power, his good knowledge of the territory and of the local customs and people have helped them to avoid some trouble and save precious time.
"Our job is quite diversified. In collaboration with SOFRECAP, it consists in consulting, auditing, giving economic information, following export operations, and in providing for the safety of people and goods (individuals or businesses), for the security of airports (as regards immigration control) and that of airline companies (such as KLM, Corsair, Air Afrique, Air France, ...)".
The S.A.S. President and General manager at Darkwood Logistics, this former French serviceman who has always lived in Africa has been chosen by the powerful Exxon Mobil oil company to convey the goods to their Chad-based oil installations . Let's remind that the American giant is building a Trans-Africa pipeline that is to measure over 1000 Km from Cameroon to the Atlantic.
The economic issue is high for Chad, one of the world's poorest countries. Exxon will invest billions of dollars over several years and create hundreds of jobs. Thanks to Exxon, Chad may become one of the main operators in this section of the industry.
" This yard -one of the biggest in the world- requires the use of the most sophisticated logistic means to convey all kinds of goods (vehicles, capital goods, machinery, various materials, ...) in a quite short period of time, with financial restrictions. In this context, our job consists in creating roads, testing routes, controlling their quality and the traffic's free flow.
Besides, we are in charge of finding out companies -and especially in West Africa (Benin, Togo, The Ivory Coast)- that are able to supply manufactured goods in accordance with European standards.
Exploring new ways
Robert Montoya has explored a new way and has been able to propose good solutions. That's why he has won all these contracts. With his team, he has imagined a new route helping to gain several weeks over the usual roundabout ways.
"The initial route had been designed to convey tons of goods from one point, the Douala port in Cameroon, then to go through the whole country, to the Central Chad oilfields. But with a system too centred on Central Africa, the traffic has been blocked quickly.
When Exxon consulted us, we advised him to build another route from the West Africa ports: Lomé in Togo or Cotonou in Benin.
Lomé has three big advantages: its well-equipped port in deep waters, an international airport and also a large free zone that promises interesting future prospects. We proposed using a road passing through Togo and Benin, towards Nigeria to Chad. It's actually the road we had been using for several weeks."
A peculiar know-how that seems to be the heritage of military logisticians, in charge of fast and safe movements of troops...
"As regards security, we try to guard against all eventualities." Thanks to useful connections, customs officials through different countries escort the convoy. Obviously, following the terrorist attacks committed in September 11th, safety measures have been reinforced.
"It's a success. Today, our convoys from Lomé (over fifty people for 20/25 vehicles) reach N'Djaména in 15 days or so. We have great hopes of implementing inter-States' agreements to make customs controls easier. If the interested parties cooperate, we will be able to convey the goods in only 10 days.";
The tangible sign of a significant geo-strategic change
The evidence of an age and of a changing continent, Robert Montoya has witnessed the real transformation of Africa in few years. A part of his job, which consists in opening up communication routes between States, reveals the significant changes that the continent is undergoing. Big private companies that will develop market economy in Africa today back these routes, only financed in the past by African States.
The governments' failure on the economic front was such that African States had no choice but accept private capitals to finance domestic projects in several economic sectors.
You can be tempted to compare this system with 'mixed' regional banks. The creations of bank holdings owned by African States and private investors are the tangible sign of a significant geo-strategic change. In that context, it could be interesting to follow the creation by the 15 West African countries of Regional Investment Banks, and especially that of the CEDEAO Investment Bank, called BRIC.
(1) He owns companies in seven countries and employs about 2500 people.
(2) Exxon discovered Chad-based oilfields in 1969.
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